Kuala Lumpur: Latvian Ernests Gulbis had to slog for two hours Thursday before defeating Germany`s Philipp Petzschner with a 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-1 win to check into the quarterfinals of the Malaysian Open.
The second seed player, who is touted to be Kei Nishikori`s top contender in this tournament, executed a series of powerful serves to take a healthy 3-0 lead, mixing it with some accurate volleys and good net play to wrap up the first set 6-3 in 33 minutes.
Gulbis led 3-1 in the second set before a myriad of unforced errors crept into his game, allowing Petzschner back at 3-3, before the qualifier won 7-6 (7/3) courtesy of some trademark backhand returns.
The 26-year-old Gulbis, who smashed his racquet in the second to receive a penalty conduct, held his nerves to win the decider 6-1, with the majority of his winners coming from his powerful forehand drives.
The outspoken Latvian player, who has enjoyed a successful year including a first Grand Slam semi-final appearance at the French Open, was far from happy despite his win.
"He didn`t come back, I gave it to him," Gulbis, who is regarded as a focused and hardworking player, told reporters.
"I made many unforced errors, and he fought well. It wasn`t the best quality tennis, but a win`s a win. It`s also a tough court to play in, so I must get used to it."
Nishikori had said his crushing recent defeat in the US Open final left him drained, but the world`s rising tennis star showed no hint of that Wednesday, cruising into the Malaysian Open last eight in his return to the court.
The world number eight sent Rajeev Ram of the United States packing in straight sets 6-2, 6-3 on Wednesday, indicating his strong desire to win in Malaysia.
Third seed Leonardo Mayer of Argentina however suffered an upset as he crumbled in straight sets 7-6, 6-4 to Finland`s Jarkko Nieminen, who created history this year by recording the quickest win on the ATP Tour by when he downed Bernard Tomic in just 28 minutes.
"I expected it to be a tough match. Even if I lost I would have been happy with my game, but you need to be in top form to beat a player like Mayer," said the 33-year-old.
The doubles pairing of Andre Begemann and Julian Knowle, who stunned top seeds Eric Butorac and Raven Klaasen on Wednesday meanwhile continued their fine run by routing USA`s duo Scott Lipsky and Rajeev Ram 6-3, 6-3.
Crowd favourite and local lad Syed Mohd Agil with partner Nick Kyrgios also went down to the second seeds Jamie Murray and John Peers 6-3, 6-4.